Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation-2 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

[A special Tuesday review by Doug Glassman before our interview with J. Michael Straczynski, coming tomorrow.]

I think Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 could be the nerdiest comic ever written. Don’t get me wrong -- I mean it in a positive way. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, and while I was too young to get into TNG during its first run, I enjoy watching the reruns. This kind of crossover has been the subject of decades of fan fiction; I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes maneuvering required by IDW, Paramount and the BBC to pull it off. If you’re unfamiliar with either franchise, I highly recommend checking out SF Debris. His reviews of both series are informative and hilarious.

Sometimes, when doing a crossover, one writer is chosen to represent both franchises, which can negatively affect the characters. IDW decided to bypass this by having Star Trek writers Scott and David Tipton and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee collaborate, which keeps the story evenly split. Though the cover advertises the Eleventh Doctor and the Next Generation cast, they do honor the past incarnations with a meet-up between the Fourth Doctor and Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Scotty. The comic series is still going on as of the writing of this review, so I don’t know if there are any other similar meet-ups, but I’d love to see the Seventh Doctor and Benjamin Sisko appear.

The crossover is built around a solid premise: the Cybermen and Borg have teamed up to take over and assimilate the universe. The Borg were based on the Cybermen, with their desire to absorb other species into their own and threatening destruction to all who oppose them. We even see a composite creature before their alliance inevitably falls apart. They should not have met, as something has happened to merge the Doctor Who and Star Trek universes. The Doctor knows what a Klingon is without ever meeting them, and a planet appears that he doesn’t know about. Though it’s likely a threat unique to this series, it could tie into the crack in time he faced in Series 5.

Exactly when this takes place in the Doctor Who canon is unclear. The Doctor claims to be the only one of his group to have fought the Cybermen, which should place it before the episode “The Pandorica Opens.” However, Rory remembers his time as a Roman Centurion, which happened during and after that episode. My knowledge of The Next Generation canon isn’t as strong, and Geordi Laforge doesn’t have the cyborg eyes from the later Trek movies. I can excuse these minor errors in an otherwise well-assembled story. After all, the universe is being affected by whatever brought the Cybermen and Borg together. The casts of both franchises get equal time, although the Trek side is naturally weighted towards Picard and Riker. The Tiptons and Lee capture the characters’ voices nicely; I can easily hear Matt Smith and Patrick Stewart saying their dialogue.

One concern is the pacing. The Trek segments are rather slow-paced ... but then, it’s a franchise not known for being action-packed. A long, slow walk through a mining facility seems straight out of an episode, so at least the tone is properly set. Conversely, we first meet the Doctor, Amy and Rory while they’re being chased through ancient Egypt, followed by them arriving in San Francisco in 1941. This is actually a great first-issue ending fake-out; they’ve arrived on the holodeck during a “Dixon Hill” program. Data and Riker immediately assume that they’re malfunctioning holograms; considering how often the holodeck goes rogue, this is a very reasonable reaction.

I give the artwork mixed reviews. It’s a painted style which looks very photo-realistic, but at certain points, it looks like photos of the actors have been traced over. This can lead to some “dull surprise,” but there’s an effort made to avoid this. I give credit to J.K. Woodward and Glen Purcell for keeping the action moving while using such a style. Painted artwork can often feel static and throw the reader out of the story; it’s why I have trouble reading books by Alex Ross and Greg Land. The artwork also has extraordinary detail. When the TARDIS first appears in the holodeck, the menu behind them contains numerous Doctor Who in-jokes. In a neat move, the art switches to a cartoony style for the Fourth Doctor/Kirk flashback, giving it a distinct feel as the Doctor thinks about his past.

This first volume of Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2 is set up as the “first episode” of a two-parter, with a big revelation to come in the second volume. If you’re a fan of either franchise, I’d recommend checking this out. The ball’s in your court now, Dark Horse -- let’s get Star Trek/Star Wars going.

Coming up, I’m sticking with IDW for the rest of the month, for a little event I’d like to call “Transgiving.” I’m giving thanks for the awesome double-punch of More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise, elevating the Transformers franchise to new comic book heights. I hope I can convince more people to read them.

As for December, everybody does Christmas specials that time of year ...  except for me. I’ll be spotlighting Kitty Pryde, one of the most prominent openly Jewish superheroes. She’s had a very interesting narrative, from Days of Future Past to Astonishing X-Men, with a few stops in between.  Stay tuned!
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1 comment:

  1. Yup this is definitely placed before the movies ... The uniforms changed from the between the TV show and Generations to a mixture of the past onscreen Next Generation Uniforms and the more updated ones in DS9/Voyagers (since NG had wound up it's run).

    But then it could be assumed that the Temporal Wake created in First Contact could have came from the Borg assimilating time travel tech ... which the story ends with them craving.

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